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People Management

How to motivate your staff

Updated: 19 October 2021

For our latest Take 10 we’re looking at how to motivate your staff. Adam Blair has been Head of Borrower Sales at Funding Circle since January 2012. In that time he’s grown the account management team from 2 employees to over 40, and has overseen the growth in new loans to small businesses in the UK from £2 million per month to over £100 million. 

We thought Adam would be the perfect person to give some insight on how to motivate your staff and managing a team. Here’s what he had to say.

What are the most common challenges of managing employees or a team? How do you overcome them?

In my experience, you need to watch out for anything that causes unrest or that demotivates people. For example it could be perceived unfairness, where some people think they’re hard done by or that others are getting favourable treatment. Miscommunication can cause a lot of problems as well, so keeping everyone on the same page by being clear and consistent is really important. Over communicating is the best way to do this.

How do you motivate your staff?

There’s a TED talk on motivation by Dan Pink that really resonates with me. Rather than focusing on traditional rewards, he talks about mastery, autonomy and purpose. My interpretation of that is:

Mastery – helping people to become better (and ultimately experts) in their role

Autonomy – giving people space to work, learn and try things out

Purpose – clearly communicating the team and company mission, and showing how their contribution makes a difference

In sales there’s always natural competition that helps push people too. And on a wider view, at Funding Circle as a whole we always try to give opportunities to progress, both within teams and other departments, so people can continue to develop.

What are the risks of an unmotivated team?

The main risks are that productivity drops and results start to suffer. It can become infectious, with one unmotivated person bringing others down. It can create a bad atmosphere and then people can start leaving, so it’s key to stay on top of things to catch any discontent early.

I’d encourage open dialogue from direct reports and have regular 1:1s —  ask questions you might not like the answer to. It’s better to know so you can address any problems.

If a team has a high turnover, what could you do to reduce this?

You need to understand the reasons behind it and find the root cause. Has the role been oversold, or filled by people who are overqualified? Take another look at the profile of people you are recruiting and how you sell the opportunity, it’s better to be honest and realistic up front to get the right person for the right role.

Make sure you talk to the people who are still there (particularly the best ones) to find out how they are feeling. It’s something you should be doing anyway, but ensure they realise they are important and valued, address any concerns they might have and encourage open dialogue.

Have you ever tried something that backfired or didn’t work out?

Lots of things! For example, once we tried changing the structure of the team hoping it would boost conversion — it didn’t work so we changed it back. You need to try new things to develop as a manager, but the most important thing is to learn from any mistakes and make sure you don’t repeat them. You will find yourself in similar situations again in the future and the experience is invaluable.

For someone managing a team or someone for the first time, what advice would you give them?

The most important thing is your mindset — if you want to help people improve and develop you are halfway there. A good exercise is to think about the best boss and worst boss you have ever had and why they were so good or so bad. Pick out as much as you can from those previous experiences. Don’t do the things the bad boss did!


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